Saturday, September 25, 2021

Veteran musician holds his own against DJs

Starting out as a drummer in a 1970s band called “In-Crowd”, Lekofi Sejeso did, by a quirk of fate, come to get more play time courtesy of the Special Branch. The lead guitarist was Keletso Rakhudu who is now the assistant minister of trade and industry.

Sejeso and another band member alternated as drummers and one day while the band was playing a gig at Lesedi Community Hall in Bontleng, four heavily-built men burst through the door.

“They hadn’t even paid the cover charge. It was the other guy’s turn to play and I was taking a breather,” he recalls of this incident.

The intruders beelined for the stage, grabbed the alternate-drummer by the limbs and hauled him off-stage and outside.

“That was the last show he ever played with the band,” he says.

The alternate drummer happened to be the nephew of a very, very senior government official with whom he was staying and there was a great deal of anxiety in the family about his outsized passion for music.

Given how much power the uncle had, it was easy to get the Special Branch to forcibly and literally wean the young man away from his drums and get him to focus on his studies.

With the nephew out of the picture, Sejeso became the band’s sole drummer and there being no Special Branch heavies to yank him off the drum set, music became his life and livelihood.

One would think that with deejays being as ubiquitous as they presently are in the entertainment industry, the likes of Sejeso would be going the way of dinosaurs but he presents a completely different account.

“DJs are not a competition and I don’t see them as such. A DJ will always wait for a musician to release a song before he can play it. A live performance is also always more exciting than a DJ playing songs,” he says. “I am aware though that there are DJs who compile musicians’ songs into an album and put their names on the CD sleeve. I am okay with that as long as there is no violation of copyright but if that DJ claims that “these are my songs”, then there he is confusing everybody – myself included.”

Sejeso admits though that when it comes to payment, the DJ has an upper hand on account of working alone while a band can have up to 10 members.

“The size of the band becomes a huge challenge when we negotiate for pay because there has to be enough money to be shared out among the band’s members. In addition to the standard equipment that a DJ uses, we use musical instruments that are very expensive,” he says.

To buttress the latter point, he says that a good guitar costs a whopping P8000. The result is that all too often, potential customers find bands expensive to hire.

Sejeso has played for a number of bands but his most notable gig was when he played for Afro Sunshine which churned out hits that still get considerable radio play. Not too long ago he played at Grand Palm Hotel, starting at the bar and later the casino. He then moved to United Caf├® in Extension 10 then to a newly opened sister operation in Block 6 which is probably Botswana’s biggest bar.

“I am trying to encourage open-jam sessions in which other musicians can bring their own instruments and join me on stage,” he says.

One other group that has taken up the offer is of customer-singers who put in advance requests then go up onstage to sing.

Having sidelined as a producer for a long time, Sejeso says that he plans to pursue this side of the business full-time. Three months ago, he set up a recording studio which he is test-driving with the recording of his own album that he plans to release before Christmas.

“It’s not open to other musicians yet. I want them to appreciate the quality of the equipment and my workmanship through my own album,” he says.

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